Cryptography, AI, and the Future of Democracy

2 min readFeb 21, 2024
This is what can happen when the AI fails in a good way

In a world where artificial intelligence and cryptography are increasingly intertwined, it’s more important than ever to understand the fundamental reasons behind the creation of cryptocurrencies and the principles they rely on — principles that are now being challenged by the very technology that could enhance them.

Bare with me…

Cryptocurrencies were born out of a need for a decentralized consensus mechanism — a way for disparate parties to agree on a state of affairs without needing to trust a central authority. This need for consensus is rooted in the Byzantine Generals’ Problem, a scenario in which actors must agree on a concerted strategy to avoid catastrophic failure, even in the presence of unreliable actors. The solution, Byzantine Fault Tolerance, is a cornerstone of modern cryptocurrency algorithms, allowing them to arrive at a consensus even when some participants are dishonest.

This consensus-building is crucial, not just for cryptocurrencies but for the operation of any republican or democratic form of government. It’s the bedrock upon which trust and collective action are built. Yet, with the advent of advanced AI, this foundation is under threat. AI can generate misinformation at an unprecedented scale, challenging our ability to arrive at a consensus and potentially breaking down the very apparatus meant to uphold it.

A recent humorous failure by OpenAI’s ChatGPT highlights the perils of over-reliance on AI without sufficient checks and balances. If AI can unintentionally create nonsense, imagine the potential for intentional deception. This is where the philosophy behind crypto becomes vital. Crypto isn’t a fad or a simple economic anomaly; it’s a solution to the age-old problem of how to build a reliable consensus in a world full of lies and half-truths.

As we integrate AI into our daily lives and infrastructures, we must remember the lessons of cryptocurrency. We need systems that can not only handle the truth but also guard against lies. This calls for a balanced approach where AI is used not as a sole arbitrator of reality but as a tool among many, with checks and balances akin to those in cryptocurrencies.

It is certain, as AI and crypto collide, we are reminded that our tools are only as good as the principles they are built upon. The consensus is not just a technical term from the crypto world; it’s a principle that sustains democracies and enables collective human action. As we stand at the crossroads of a new digital era, let us remember that without consensus, our shared reality is but a house of cards waiting to fall.